I am a middle aged man, and I work in a shop of intelligent middle aged men. None of us are really that close to retirement age, the average age in the shop is probably fifty five. Nobody in the shop is obese, but most are overweight (same as most men in the US). Occasionally during talk around the water cooler the conversation turns to health. Today I overheard one of my colleagues talking about his recent visit to the doctor where he was told that he needs to get his cholesterol under control.
As you may know from my recent posts I am reading a fascinating book about the genesis and metamorphosis of the scientific thinking concerning cholesterol and dietary fats. (The Big Fat Surprise, Nina Teicholz) Any time I hear someone talking about this subject my ears perk up. I was somewhat relieved to hear him saying that his doctor’s advice was to stop eating white sugar, white flour and white rice. I heard no mention of fats, so I assume that the doctor left alone the standing recommendation that a person eat low-fat and watch fat intake, and I heard no mention of added sugars in foods. This would be typical advice.
Were I giving supplementary advice, it would be to eat no processed foods, since most of the sugar we eat is from this source. I would recommend that he drink no sweetened beverages, whether with sugar sweetener or artificial sweetener, as either one will cause insulin resistance. This advice includes fruit juices, even 100 % natural juices, as the fructose in them is delivered in higher doses than nature intends. Get your fruit juices from eating whole fruit.
The link between serum cholesterol in the blood and heart disease is also not scientifically established. There seems to be a relationship, but it has not been proven that cholesterol is the CAUSE. However, lowering cholesterol is scientifically known to be associated with other health hazards, this from Big Fat Surprise:
All-cause mortality was always the pitfall of cholesterol-lowering trials. Bizarrely but consistently, men whose cholesterol had gone down were found to die at significantly higher rates from suicides, accidents, and homicides. Rifkind thought the results were a fluke, yet this strange finding had shown up before in trials that reduced saturated fat, such as the Helsinki Heart Study. In fact, a metanalysis of six cholesterol-lowering trials found that the chance of dying from suicide or violence was twice as high in the treatment groups as it was in the control groups, and the authors posited that the diet might cause depression.
Teicholz, Nina (2014-05-13). The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet (Kindle Locations 2256-2260). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
My advice would be, “Don’t worry about cholesterol. Science does not actually know the source for your serum cholesterol, or whether or not high levels of total cholesterol are actually a danger sign for anything at all.” A man should worry about sugar and other processed carbohydrates, though. He should increase his fat consumption so that he might lower his carb consumption. Every bit of energy that a person gets from food is from three general types of food–fats, carbs, or proteins. If you don’t eat much meat and you lower your carb consumption then that pretty much leaves fats to supply whatever changes you are making. The good news is that saturated fats are just what you need. The science is in that saturated fats like butter, lard and coconut oil are not harmful, and are proving to be heart helpful.
So the final advice for middle aged men who are getting alarming sounding words from their health care professional is this: stop eating processed foods, sweetened drinks, including fruit juices and diet drinks, and increase the amount of food you cook with saturated fats. Bacon and eggs are better for you than sweetened yogurt. Never take a statin drug for lowering cholesterol, because all of those side effects they spend a minute rattling off in the drug commercials totally outweigh any unproven benefit you get from lowering your serum cholesterol in respect to your heart health, and lowering your cholesterol has proven dangerous to other areas of your life.
Think for yourself, man, question authority!